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Covid-19 coronavirus: Companies’ vaccination plans and measures aimed at safeguarding employees in Italy

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Livio Bossotto

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Milan

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15 April 2021

On 6 April 2021, the Government and the social partners signed the “Shared protocol for updating measures to counter and contain the spread of SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19 in the workplace” and the “National protocol for the implementation of company plans aimed at activating extraordinary SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19 vaccination points in the workplace”.

The “Shared protocol for updating measures to counter and contain the spread of SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19 in the workplace” (available here) updates and renews the emergency measures already provided for in the previous protocols signed by the Government and the social partners on 14 March 2020 and 24 April 2020. Said Protocol confirms the measures already contained in the previous Protocol of 24 April 2020, concerning company organisation and employee access, employee rotation, prohibition of face-to-face meetings, individual protection devices, management of shared areas, health surveillance and management of symptomatic persons. On the other hand, in addition to introducing formal and terminological changes – such as the use of the expression “agile working” (lavoro agile) instead of “smart working” – the new Protocol provides for significant innovations, in particular concerning:

  • readmission to work after Covid-19 infection; it is therefore provided that an employee who tested positive after 21 days can only return to work after submitting a Covid-19 negative molecular or antigenic test result that was carried out at an accredited or authorised facility of the Health Service;
  • the obligation on all employees to wear surgical masks or individual protection devices in all cases of shared workplaces, indoors or outdoors, unless the employee carries out his/her activity in isolation; and
  • the elimination of limitations on national and international work travel and the obligation on employers to cooperate with a competent doctor and the head of the prevention and protection service (Responsabile del servizio di prevenzione e protezione, RSPP) in order to assess the context associated with the different types of national and international work travel provided, with reference also to the epidemiological risk of the place of destination.

The “National protocol for the implementation of company plans aimed at activating extraordinary SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19 vaccination points in the workplace” (available here) is in contrast aimed at contributing to the rapid implementation of the national vaccine plan against SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19, in order to make safer the continuation of business and production activities throughout the country, and increasing the safety level in workplaces. The measures included in said Protocol are therefore aimed at achieving the commitment of companies and employers to the direct vaccination of employees who, regardless of the type of employment contract, exercise their activities for the benefit of the company. The vaccinations that take place in companies may also concern employers or company owners.

In particular, said Protocol provides to the employer the option to manifest to the competent Health Authorities – regardless of the number of employees – the willingness to implement company plans for the provision of extraordinary vaccination points against Covid-19 in workplaces in order to vaccinate employees who have voluntarily requested it.

During the processing of such company vaccination plans, the employer must ensure the collaboration and discussion with the Committee for the application and verification of the rules set out in the Protocol of 24 April 2020, or with other company bodies provided for by the sector Protocols, taking into account the peculiarities of each productive entity and the related infection risk.

Such company plans must then be communicated by the employer to the relevant Health Authority, in full compliance with the provisions set out by the Protocol itself and any potential specific provisions issued by the Regions and Autonomous Provinces for the territories of their competence. The employer must also indicate the number of vaccines required for employees who are voluntarily willing to be vaccinated.

It is further specified that the costs of the implementation and management of the aforementioned company plans, including the costs of the vaccine administration, are entirely borne by the employer, whereas the supply of vaccines and tools for their administration depend on the Regional Healthcare Systems territorially competent.

With respect to obtaining the consent of employees interested in the vaccine administration, the relevant procedures shall be carried out and managed in full compliance with:

  • the voluntary choice made exclusively by individual employees;
  • the provisions on the protection of confidentiality; and
  • the security of the information collected, preventing any form of discrimination against the employees involved.

As an alternative to the above-mentioned direct vaccination initiative, the Protocol also provides that employers may enter into a specific agreement with private health facilities that meet the requirements for vaccination, at their own expense, except for the supply of vaccines, which is paid for by the private facilities. At the same time, employers who are not obliged to appoint a competent doctor or who cannot have recourse to private health facilities may use the health facilities of INAIL. In this case, the charges remain the responsibility of INAIL.

Finally, the Protocol clarifies that if the vaccination is carried out during working hours, the time required for the vaccination is treated as working time for all purposes.

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